Men, women, and children marching with Ancient Order of Foresters banners prior to arriving at the Belair National Park.
About the Ancient Order of Foresters:
The Ancient Order of Foresters originated in England in the mid-eighteenth century, with the first recorded Foresters meeting being held in Leeds in 1834. The 'Ancient Order' in the friendly society's title probably refers to the medieval origins of foresters. The term entered Middle English via Old French and is first attested in English in 1297. A forester was an officer in charge of a forest, or of growing timber on an estate (Oxford English Dictionary).The Ancient Order of Foresters established its first branch (court) in Australia in Victoria in 1849.
The Foresters are a non-profit organisation. The principles of the society are founded on a desire to provide financial and social benefits as well as support to members and their families in times of unemployment, sickness, death, disability and old age. Consequently, the Foresters played a particularly active role in the lives of members and their families during the Depression and both World Wars.
Membership growth was significant during and up to the mid 1940's. At this stage the society had nearly one hundred courts located throughout Victoria, and had representation in all states of Australia. During this period funds raised by Foresters contributed to the construction of approximately twenty Foresters halls throughout the state. These facilities were utilised for meetings and community purposes and halls were used as refuges in times of trauma such as bushfires and floods.
In the post Second World War period membership began to decline as the social circumstances improved due to the growth of the economy and an abundance of work and improvement in the provision of government benefits. Although the importance of such groups as the Ancient Order of Foresters has declined in recent years, the society through a core of loyal and dedicated members, has never wavered from its original objectives and mission to "serve the community and deserving groups by involvement in social activities and fund raising for charities."